Installing Christmas lights is a fairly straightforward process. When installing on the exterior of a home, typically you have gutters or shingles to attach lights along the roofline. But what if you want to illuminate around your windows? Or maybe you have a larger commercial building that features aluminum siding, with no ideal spot for a typical gutter clip to attach to. In this blog, we will break down a few pro tips for installing on non-traditional surfaces.
Brick is a common building material, particularly in Eastern parts of North America. Many people might like to attach Christmas lights to their brick around windows, doorways, and archways. Through trial and error, professional installers have discovered that the best solution for brick surfaces is hot glue! You’ll want to upgrade from the glue gun in your craft cupboard though - head to the hardware store and pick up a high-temperature heavy duty glue gun and hot glue sticks for this type of project.
- Apply a line of hot glue to the socket of your light (not the bulb). If you want the bulbs to be perpendicular to the wall, apply the glue to the base of the socket. If you’d like them to be turned inward toward the feature you’re highlighting, apply the glue along the side of the socket without the branch clip. Do not apply hot glue to the wire!
- Hold the socket in place for a few moments to ensure that it’s stuck in place.
Pro-Tip: Hot glue is easiest to work with at warmer temperatures. If you live in a colder climate, try to install during the warmest part of the day or install your lights earlier in the season before it gets too chilly. The glue will hold during the colder weather once it has dried, but it can be hard to get it to stick if you’re installing in the cold.
- Beware of ice build up on individual sockets, as it may weigh them down and cause the lights to separate from the adhesive.
Removal: The glue will generally peel right off during removal. If it doesn’t all come off, you may need to use a chisel tool to remove it. If it’s really stubborn, isopropyl alcohol works well to remove any residue.
Concrete is another difficult surface that you may come across in your decorative endeavours. This is a surface where you’ll almost need to come up with a permanent attachment. Some concrete surfaces may be receptive to adhesive, like hot glue or command strips, but more often than not you’ll have to drill into the surface to install an anchor and eye bolt. Anchor and eye bolts are eye bolts with built in anchors, meaning you don’t have to install the anchor separately before the bolt.
- Using a masonry bit, drill a hole to the recommended depth for the eye bolt you’re installing. If you’re using our bolts, you’ll need a 1/4 inch concrete drill bit. We recommend using a hammer drill.
- Blow any dust from the drill hole. If you have access to a vacuum or compressed air, this is best!
- Insert the anchor eye bolt into the hole. For added longevity, you can add some concrete or mortar caulking to the hole before inserting the eye bolt, but not too much - you don't want to prevent the anchor from going in all the way!
- Tap the bolt with a hammer to activate the self-tapping mechanism. Some bolts may respond to a combination of pressure and turning.
- Seal the hole with a small amount of concrete or mortar caulking, and smooth it out around the hole opening. This will prevent water from entering the hole, which can slowly erode it and lead to cracking.
Pro-Tip: If the concrete surface is painted, dry, and clean, extra-hold adhesive clips may work. Test a clip in an inconspicuous area first to make sure that it holds, and try removing it too, to see if there’s any chance of it removing the paint with it.
Installing on a ferrous metal surface means you have the ease of magnetic clips at your disposal! Our magnetic clips are compatible with flat wire products, made for a snug fit with E17 sockets. They simply twist onto the back of the socket, and the rare earth magnet is made to withstand 70+mph winds. The biggest bonus of magnetic clips? The easiest removal you could ever imagine.
- Pre-attach the magnetic clips to the base of your sockets before installing.
- Place the sockets along your surface.
Pro-Tip: Depending on how ferrous the material you’re installing on, and the bulb direction, a failure along a strand of lights attached with magnetic clips may result in a “cascade”. To avoid all of the lights falling down at once, we advise securing another type of clip every 5-10 bulbs. There is often a lip along flashing that will allow for a small clip like our multi-clip to be installed for extra reinforcement.
Removal: Removing Christmas lights installed with magnetic clips is super easy - just grab one end of the line and pull! Of course, be wary of sending the whole thing down, especially from a high surface. The clips stay on the socket, so no worries about re-applying them every season. If you have extra clips attached elsewhere for security, you’ll just have to stop at each of those spots to remove the extra attachment.
Many modern commercial buildings have non-ferrous flashing on their facade, meaning that professional installers need to find an alternative to the traditional Christmas light clip.
What if your flashing is not ferrous? If you have aluminum flashing on the building you’re hoping to decorate, adhesive clips are your best option. Our adhesive clips are super discreet and attach just behind the socket. They use an extremely strong adhesive to ensure that they’ll stay up all season. They even come in two strengths - regular and extra-strength - so you can be sure you’ve got the right clip for the job. Just be warned that there will be more labour involved in the removal as the adhesive may leave marks that can be removed with a product like Goo Gone Pro Power.
- Leaving the adhesive backing on, pre-attach the clips to the backs of the sockets on your light string.
- When you’re ready to install, remove the adhesive backing from the first clip. Attach the clip to your surface, holding it there for a few moments. Move on to the next socket once it has properly adhered.
Pro-Tip: If you are installing in a cold-weather climate, a heat gun (or even a hair dryer!) will come in handy. The adhesive on the back of these clips prefers to go on warm.
Removal: If you want to leave the clips in place, remove the lights socket by socket from their clips. Next season, you can just re-insert the sockets into the clips.
If you want to fully remove the clips, remove each adhesive socket one at a time. A tool to pry off the clip may come in handy, but be sure to use a tool made from a non-scratching material.
If there is adhesive remaining, use an industrial-strength adhesive remover to remove the residue.
Gutters with Gutter Guards
The bane of every Christmas light installer’s existence! Metal screen or micro-mesh gutter guards are often the most difficult to work around. These types of gutter guard make it impossible to install the traditional style of gutter clip. Many installers have had success using our Multi-Clip, snipping the long edge to be slightly shorter. We are currently developing a gutter guard clip that will be launched for the 2023 holiday season.
- For our older-style Multi-Clip, snip off a piece of long edge.
- For our new “Ultimate Multi-Clip” there is a tab on the long edge of the clip where you can either bend it back and away, or completely remove it.
- Try installing the clip both frontwards and backwards, and pick the orientation that sticks best.
Cradle Clip Workaround:
- Try installing a traditional cradle clip backwards
- You may need to snip off a piece of the long edge of the clip so that it's not too obvious on the
If there are easily accessed screws, loosen them slightly so that you can get a clip under them. If you’re installing lights for a client, ensure they’re ok with this as it may allow for more debris to accumulate in the gutters.
Stay tuned for our new gutter guard clip!
Holiday lights bring a lot of joy to homeowners and passersby. If you’ve struggled in the past to install lights due to the construction of your home, we hope that you have found this blog post helpful. Are you working on an installation and need some suggestions for how to install it? Feel free to send us a message on our Contact page and we’ll be happy to help.